John came to Place of Refuge in July of 2019 from a recovery house where he had spent the prior eight months.
After decades of alcohol and drug- use, he was in the process of putting his life back together, but something was still missing. Something meaningful. Something it would take the Place of Refuge to help him rediscover. His art. From a young age, John had always been drawn to art. As a child he drew superheroes and dinosaurs. In high school, his art was all about machines: airplanes, cars, bikes, and more. And in college, where he had gone to study architecture, he found himself delving into the arts and so transferred to the fine arts program where he majored in painting.
John had found his passion, trained and refined it. But over time, his substance use would take it all away.
When John arrived at a recovery house in October of 2018, he hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in more than a decade except to paint houses. He decided that in addition to getting sober, he was going to treat the time ahead of him as a sabbatical. How many people had the opportunity to pause, take inventory of their lives, and recalibrate their compasses with the help of others? It was during that time that John decided to rekindle his love of painting.

The supportive environment of Place of Refuge gave him the confidence to dive back into his art and that spark of imagination necessary for all good art. But life was still full of distractions, and so his ideas remained images in his head and not ones upon canvas.

Then came COVID. While the pandemic brought many hardships, it also brought John gifts: time and relative solitude. The early months of limited contact, what he refers to as “his lockdown,” were what he needed to quiet his mind, reflect, and paint again. The thing he needed in his life, what he was searching for, was back. It felt like it had never left.
His passion for art reignited him always conceptualizing, looking for ideas, and taking more joy in other people’s art.
Today when John isn’t busy painting, he’s finding inspiration in the world around him, in a park studying the roots of a tree, watching the sunset from Vancouver Cemetery, or spontaneously visiting a local art gallery.
The art he’s creating carries a message as well, one of environmental appreciation and preservation. It’s a passion that carries over even into preparing his canvasses from recycled materials. Initially, he made his canvasses from old prints he’d purchased on clearance or in local thrift stores, priming them in white to cover the prior art. Later he would use recycled wood pallets for stretcher bars and old bedsheets to prepare his canvasses from scratch.
John has realized that there’s still life, purpose, and art to be found in things people might have written off in the past. After all, there was a time not so long ago when people, including himself, had written him off, but with the help of Place of Refuge, he’d discovered an abundance of life and passion ahead.


If I could only say one thing about Place of Refuge, it would be that it is aptly named.

It truly is a refuge from the chaos and uncertainty most of us face in early recovery. The house provided me with more than just a safe place to live; I found community there, other men to lean on and to lend a hand to and share with.

There was calm energy about the house that seemed, for me at least, to wash away the noise and confusion and let me focus on the things that were truly important in my life.

I’m eternally grateful for the time I spent living there and the friends I’ve made.


I’ve been in Place of Refuge for only three weeks at the time of this writing.

This house has turned out to be just what I need. They quickly offer support when I need to locate resources and are sensitive to the times that I need space for myself.

I finished my stabilization at a first stage housing facility and came here less than a week after my interview with Jeff and Reive. I knew this was the right place for me.

Place of Refuge offers enough structure while providing the freedom one needs to rebuild a life. The men in the house have all been warm and welcoming. I know that with the help of Jeff and Reive I’m finally going to get my life back on track.


I came to Place of Refuge looking simply for housing, somewhere I could stay in the short term while I got back on my feet.

What I found was so much more: a home and a place that supported me as I chose my path forward in recovery. With an emphasis on cooperative living and respect for each other and our environment, I also discovered a newfound respect for myself.

The two best choices I made in my journey to recovery were to seek the treatment I needed and, after getting that initial help, move to Place of Refuge. I believe this program is the gold standard for transitional housing and supportive communal living.


Place of Refuge has been a really supportive environment for me in my recovery journey.

I really appreciate how little stress or drama there’s been since coming here. The house is clean, the residents get along, and the location is great for transit and lifestyle. 
Early recovery is an uncertain time for a lot of reasons. It’s been a big transition for me, and I am really grateful for the staff at Place of Refuge running such a smooth operation. Here I’ve found a sense of stability and peace that was missing when I’ve had previous stints of recovery and that has made all the difference.